Creating authentic reflective learners who feel empowered to take ownership of their learning…

Every day I reflect on my efforts to support my students to take ownership of their learning. This is a dual process of me letting go and them taking ownership. Recently I decided that I also want to celebrate successes in their learning more explicitly- even small ones. Some of my students become anxious and put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well. They can be harsh judges and I want them to notice positive developments in their learning.

Having read Sam’s recent blog post on mindfuness , it dawned on me that it was time to introduce another two layers to our reflections on our learning. We have been using the following three questions to guide our reflections in our bubble catcher journal: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? and How am I doing? From there my students would set goals for the following week and develop a plan of action for achieving their goals.

The challenge for several students has been in developing a relevant plan of action to help them achieve their goal. I have also recently read an article on positive education (“Positive education: positive pyschology and classroom interventions” by Martin E. P. Seligman and others) and decided to combine a strategy Sam uses with one mentioned in the article.

Sam’s: What skills will you need to achieve your goal? What attitudes will you need to demonstrate to achieve your goal?

Seligman et al’s: What Went Well?

A new strategy for reflecting…I began by instructing my students to close their eyes and picture a recent event in their lives, in which they were involved, which had gone well. I asked them to notice what they were doing and how they were feeling during the event.

We then shared their thinking and I scribed. We were able to sort their responses under skills used during the event and attitudes demonstrated during the event. They then had another go with this strategy.

From here I asked them to set a goal for themselves. I then asked them to identify which skills they would need to use and which attitudes they would need to demonstrate in order to achieve their goal.

Without prompting a few students commented that this would be really helpful. We then talked more about ownership of learning and how identifying the skills and attitudes we will need, could help us to achieve our goals including that of taking ownership of our learning.

I am excited and hopefully they are too.

“How can I develop authentic reflective learners?” take #5

In an earlier post I shared about my plans for developing authentic reflective learners who move towards taking ownership of their learning.

At first my students’ reflections were quite simplistic and focused on their behaviour, which was relevant but I wanted them to go deeper. We have now been through the “River of Learning” reflective process three times. Bearing in mind that reflection happens on an ongoing basis for my learners, the students’ weekly reflections now show greater insight into their efforts to be reflective and to take ownership of their learning.

The weekly “River of Learning” reflective process is being owned more by them too. They ask to do it and most don’t need me to support them anymore. They are engaged and the sharing is purposeful and sincere.

I love reading their reflections and their goals. I am so excited for my students and for myself. I am learning to let go and they are learning to take ownership.

“How can I develop authentic reflective learners?” take #4

Sharing their learning journey with each other.

Sharing their learning journey with each other.

Excited to share…

In Friday’s post, How can I develop authentic reflective learners? take # 3 I described my plans for trying out a new structure, River of Learning, for reflecting about their learning journey for that week.

Very worthwhile…

I could not believe how engaged my student were. They took their preparation seriously, they shared with their partners and didn’t go off topic, they willingly summarised their journey as best they could and even asked for more time to write more. They set pertinent goals supported by purposeful plans of action for achieving them.

I observed eagerly, took photos and helped only when called upon, which was only twice. They took complete ownership of the process and persevered in moments of uncertainty. I am so proud of their attitude and enthusiasm. And I am so thrilled that they all thought the process was very worthwhile.

What did they share and write about? What goals did they set? What plans of action did they create?

Some were very basic, others more detailed. But the learner and the learning was evident in each reflection. They all show promise for becoming powerful reflective learners and they all demonstrated a desire to take ownership of their learning. Have a look to see them in action.

I am so looking forward to watching this reflective journey unfold.

“How can I develop authentic reflective learners?” take #3

My next step…

I gathered my students in small groups and revisited the question “How is blowing bubbles connected to our bubble catcher/ thinking book?” From their responses I could tell they had made a solid connection.

Our aims for the year…

Next I wanted to establish with them what our aims were for this year. We nutted this out for a while and went back and forth clarifying their thoughts and mine. Over two days and through small and whole class discussions this is what we set for our aims for the year…

• to become reflective learners who realise when we are being “good” learners and
• to choose to behave as “good” learners do and
• to understand what we can do to become even better learners
• take ownership of our learning – be the boss of our own learning

Next we clarified how the bubble catcher could help us achieve our aims…

This book is a place to catch our thinking before we forget.
Like bubbles, our thoughts can drift off or “pop” and be forgotten if we don’t capture them by writing them down.

We realised that the bubble catcher is a place for us to catch ourselves being good learners. So we then defined what we thought it meant to be a good learner.

“What does a “good” learner do?”

A good learner…
• Respects members of their class/ group in discussions – disagrees politely, takes turns, etc.
• Is open-minded when considering the ideas of others
• Is reflective about their learning, their attitude and their behaviour
• Is a thinker at all times and in all situations
• Is focused on the task at all times
• Actively listens to others
• Communicates well – doesn’t interrupt, listens, lets others speak
• Is a risk taker and is prepared to have a go
• Can work independently when required
• Is organised
• Asks questions about their learning

Questions good learners ask themselves…

I asked them what kind of questions do learners ask themselves when they are in the process of learning. I am very excited by their responses:

 What should I be doing?
 Do I need to think some more?
 What should I do next?
 Do I understand?
 Am I on task?
 Do I know the answer?
 Has this already been said?
 What else could I ask about this?
 Is there more I know about this?
 How can I solve this problem?

Sacffolding their reflections…

To scaffold their reflections we decided to divide each double page into three parts and use our three driving questions as a structure.

What did we do? Why did we do it? How am I doing?

In small groups, with me facilitating, we had a go at using our bubble catchers. As some became more confident, they paired up and guided others who were still unsure.

Here are a few reflections…
What did we do? I did my bubble catcher.
Why did we do it? To catch my thinking.
How am I doing? I could work on my catching skills because I forget my thinking, but I was on task and worked hard.
What did I do? Circle Time focusing on cooperation and collaboration.
Why did we do it? To learn to work well in groups.
How am I doing? I think I am doing well with cooperating and collaborating but I need to get better at not having private conversations. I think that I am learning a lot by working in a group because we can learn from each other.


What’s next?

Today we are going to have a go at taking these reflections and using them to have a conversation with a partner about our learning journey this week. Then each student will look at their strengths and weaknesses evident in their bubble catcher reflections and have a go at setting goals for themselves for next week. These will be recorded on the “River of learning” sheet .

Over the weekend…

I will cut up the “river” to separate each child’s reflection. I will read what they have written so that i can be supportive next week.

On Monday…

I will give each student their reflection. We will start our new week by reminding ourselves of the goals we have set and commit to putting them into action.


The conversations where they shared about their learning journeys were so worthwhile. Read about what happened in this blog post.

“How can I develop authentic reflective learners?” take #2

On Friday I had left school unsure about how to inspire my students to use their bubble catchers in such a way that it could lead to them becoming authentic reflective learners, with the ultimate aim of leading them to take ownership of their learning.


Stephanie was wondering about the same question! A colleague, without any prompting, forwarded a link to Stephanie’s blog post

I read her post and grew more and more excited as I believed I had found a way to help my students to understand and become excited about using their bubble catchers.

Blowing Bubbles on PhotoPeach
These are a few of their responses…

“The bubbles are like our thoughts coming our of our minds and growing.”

“Sometimes our thoughts get forgotten just like the bubbles that pop.”

“Our bubble catcher books will help us to remember our thoughts.” (if we write them down)


Yes! A connection has been made and we can now revisit the purpose/ aims of using the bubble catcher.

“How can I develop authentic reflective learners?” take #1…

I have given a lot of thought to this question as it presented part of the answer to another question I have been grappling with for ages,namely, “How can I get my learners to take ownership of their learning?”.

Finding a way…
I tried a variety of ways, but they didn’t seem to develop a reflective mindset. Some led to insightful reflections but not much more. Then I met Sam Sherratt and heard about how his students use bubble catchers to capture their thoughts about their learning journey. A while later I read a post about this on Sam’s blog His post shows his students using their bubble catchers to reflect on their week and set goals for the week ahead – I noticed that there seemed to be genuine ownership of learning taking place. I loved it!

Taking the plunge…
I read and thought about Sam’s blog post several times. Last Friday I took the plunge. I had been focusing on making learning explicit since the year started by asking two key questions: “What are we doing?” and “Why are we doing it?” I was very excited and my students could see that. We discussed the idea of using bubble catchers to help us reflect on our learning. I introduced a third question, “How am I doing?”. I modelled a few examples of how we could use these three questions to reflect on our own learning journey for the week.

They then had a go at gathering their thinking about their first week of learning and jotting these down in any way they liked in their bubble catcher. The intention being that they would then be able to use these notes to share how they had been doing.

A lot of confusion…
They found it very hard to know what to write. After conferencing with a few of them, I realised they didn’t quite get the purpose behind the bubble catcher. I needed to find a way to get them excited about using their bubble catcher.I also realised I needed to make the whole process of reflecting simple and explicit.

I thanked them for persevering and explained that I needed to give it some thought so that I could find a way to make things clearer for them, and for me. I asked them not to form any conclusions yet about using their bubble catchers and to please keep an open mind.

After hours of considering and rejecting ideas, the only thing clear to me was that I had to find a way.